Prognostic value of HIV-1 RNA on CD4 trajectories and disease progression among antiretroviral-naive HIV-infected adults in Botswana: A joint modeling analysis

Mansour Farahani, Vladimir Novitsky, Rui Wang, Hermann Bussmann, Sikhulile Moyo, Rosemary M. Musonda, Themba Moeti, Joseph M. Makhema, Max Essex, Richard Marlink

Publication Date: 06/01/2016

Although HIV-1 RNA levels are measured at the time of initial diagnosis, the results are not used for the clinical follow-up of the patients. This study evaluates the prognostic value of the baseline HIV-1 RNA levels (above or below 10,000 copies/ml) on rate of disease progression, among antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naive patients in Botswana. A prospective cohort of 436 HIV-infected ART-naive adults with baseline CD4 > 400 cells/mm3 were followed quarterly for 5 years in an urban clinic in Botswana. Baseline HIV-1 RNA levels and longitudinal CD4+ T-cell count data were analyzed, using mixed-effects regression jointly modeled with the times to a composite endpoint defined by AIDS-defining clinical conditions or death. During 1,547 person-years (PYs) follow-up time, 106 individuals became eligible for ART initiation (incidence rate: 0.07 PYs) and 6 participants died of AIDS-related illness. There were 203 (47%) individuals with baseline HIV-1 RNA <10,000 copies/ml and 233 (53%) individuals with baseline RNA >10,000 copies/ml. The slope of the predicted CD4 trajectory for individuals with baseline HIV-1 RNA >10,000 copies/ml is 30% steeper than that for those with baseline RNA <10,000. The hazard of reaching the composite endpoint for the individuals with baseline HIV-1 RNA >10,000 copies/ml was 2.3 (95% confidence interval: 1.5-3.0) times higher than that for those with baseline HIV-1 RNA <10,000 copies/ml. CD4 decline in individuals with HIV-1 RNA >10,000 copies/ml is much faster than that in those with RNA <10,000. The elevated HIV-1 RNA can be used as a marker to identify individuals at risk of faster disease progression.